Thursday, 12 January 2012

damned city: scissaxa

Scissaxa lies south-east of Chantákia, the road bridges a dreary, ruin-choked fen.  The bridge is laboriously repaired by chained workgangs.  Mounted overseers wear perfect bone china masks and chainmail, armed with shortbow and spiked chain.  Below, the fen's denizens scavenge ruins for valuables.  Scissaxa cannibalises it's own ruins, sinking hulks raided for materials and wealth before they sink.  Dark steeples rise above patched walls and cracked domes.  About Scissaxa's perimeter, flying buttresses laden with catapult and scorpio watch for armies or scavenger mobs.  The northwestern Ochre Gate leads to the Chantákia road.  The western Hag Gate guards the road from the eastern pass in the hills of Lagelido.  The southern Canal Gate is no longer used.  The canal network was dammed up and fortified after incursions from nearby ruins massacred a neighbourhood.  The legacy of Scissaxa often returns to haunt it. 

Entry via either gate costs two silver per head, taken by the Scissaxan Guard.  Scissaxan Guards wear chainmail and coif; bear trident, shortbow, gladius and spiked buckler or lantern shield.  Lantern shields combine spiked buckler with spiked gauntlet and tiny visored lantern.  This last serves as a weapon of surprise.  A cunning mechanism quickly raises the visor, potentially dazzling foes in low-light conditions.  This also provides light for archers.  Tunnels beneath the walls hold weird monsters, ancient necropoli and lethal traps.  Too many fatalities prevent it being profitable yet whispers persist of infamous guilds holding shadowy courts.  As Scissaxa sinks, the tunnels become longer and more complex...

The Ochre Gate opens to Rubragmine, ochre walls and iron statues of city heroes adorn the narrow streets.  Chantákian influences are evident, yet muted.  Residents dress in sober monotones with ochre facepaint and patterned scarves adorned with marcasite on steel. Jewellers and smiths thrive in Rubragmine, working in bloodstone, hematite, jet, marcasite, gold and Chantákian steel.  Oroguidan mercenaries in burnished coin-mail protect traders.  These are factors for familial merchant houses, buying and selling goods or exchanging currency with 10% markup.  Traders sometimes cheat clients, ruining heavy investors.  Scissaxan law protects them unless a Bacino magistrate, Lamaturris lawyer or a district lord over-rules it.  Poorer families in Rubragmine breeds pigs in basements.  Serving to dispose of waste, they are efficiently butchered for meat and hide.  Abbatoir Walk is known for pig-breeding and butchering.  On fortified stone piles south-east of here is Arcemalis, citadel of Lord Menzomuscas, ruler of Scissaxa.  Always expanding or part-renovating, it's walls hold the largest garrison of Scissaxan Guards and the court of Menzomuscas.

Menzomuscas is an enigma, multiple assassinations have not slowed him, baroque intrigues precise as clockwork automata.  His sonorous voice and concise speech hooks your attention.  Everything else is hidden in black silk, gold and a youthful mask with jewelled compound eyes.  His spy networks are legendary.  The Scissaxan Guard seize assets and remove those attempting to defraud Lord Menzomuscas.  The court is the usual collection of sycophants and politicians, impertubable on the surface but underneath…  Courtiers wear golden fly pins with carnelian eyes.  Their ensembles have subtle weaves of bottle green (Prasinus), carnelian (Sardios), cool black (Domurana) or plum (Susino).  Each colour denotes an eminent trading family.  These families maintain their status, presently dependant on the continued goodwill and reign of Lord Menzomuscas.

The Hag Gate opens into Lamaturris.  Famed for it's dark spires, narrow alleys and cobbled thoroughfares crowded with people of all kinds.  Clerks, lawyers and physicks are respected trades here.  At night, upstanding citizens retire and the streets belong to beggars, gangs, whores and Scissaxan Guards.  Monsters with human faces mix with hags and goblins.  The former are feared, arising spontaneously among certain bloodlines. The latter are tolerated as rag-and-bone traders.  They ape Scissaxan dress and conduct with concealed weapons and satchels of papers, trinkets and tools.  Lamaturris street cant includes choice goblin patois phrases.  Tunnels skirt caves older than Scissaxa, within ancient terrors undead and unburied inexorably dig towards vibrations.  Unusually there are no temples or recognised priests.  Menzomuscas has outlawed religion, declaring believers foresworn to his reign and any allegiance to the city.  Itinerant prophets haunt certain street corners at night-time.

Seraustrum lies south of both, falling into disrepair.  A salt dome mined here yielded salt and sulphur for export by the south canal in exchange for jet and hematite.  As the waters dried, the deaths began. Over time, on each full moon murders have taken place, ruined corpses found with ghastly wounds.  Goblins claim giant worms and insectile horrors stalk the tunnels.  While it's true, it doesn't explain the dark-mantled figures or the corpses left in their wake.  Salt and sulphur production is greatly diminished.  Miners are leaving Seraustrum before they are slaughtered by whatever or whoever lurks under the canal.  Menzomuscas has interests in the sulphur mine.  The salt trade is fought over by the four courtly families and has interest from Chantákia's bankers.  Repeated Scissaxan Guard patrols have been fruitless.  While the trade has stopped, mines in the southern fens stockpile for when trade finally resumes.


  1. Once again, the evocative detail and the naming here just really resonates with me. Good stuff!

  2. Glad you liked it, this one could have gone on and on and on... may have to do some sequels for the damned city posts.


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